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Serbian civil society against new Regulation proposed by Ministry of Defense

BELGRADE – On Monday, the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Serbia submitted a Regulation proposal to the Government on scientific and other research relevant to the defence of the country and on the procedure for issuing permissions for carrying out these studies together with foreign nationals and for foreign entities' purposes.

Photo: Serbian Army

This Regulation proposal, which laid down rules on scientific and other research relevant to the defence of the country, has provoked reactions from the scientific community and representatives of civil society.

The National Convention on the EU together with representatives of the scientific community and civil society formed the “Initiative for withdrawal of the Regulation proposal for limitation of the research in the field of defence“ and invited the Ministry of Defense to withdraw the proposal.

As it is written in the Initiative, “this Regulation proposal violates the Constitution, prevents almost all research in Serbia, considerably hinders the work of business entities, endangers the democratic control of the security sector, as well as international scientific and research cooperation.“

The initiative states that the proposed Regulation prevents the freedom and autonomy of research which is needed for monitoring the progress of the accession negotiations, for which the civil organisation gathered in the National Convention on the EU have authorisation under the procedures of the Serbian government in the negotiations.

“A critical review of the achievements of reforms in these areas is a prerequisite so that further reforms can be planned based on the evidence, collected by independent actors like NCEU and other stakeholders interested in the promotion of reforms. Also, the proposed regulation endangers independent studies and security research which are a prerequisite for democratic control of security institutions,” it was explained in the Initiative.

The Initiative also lists controversial elements in the proposed Regulation. One of the issues is the broad definition of research and data related to the defence, which leaves room for almost all research to be defined as significant for the defence. These areas include all sorts of research in the areas of defence, geoscience, water supply, electricity and energy, spatial planning and urban planning, transport and electronic communications, application of nuclear energy, biological sciences, as well as social sciences.

It is also stated that “the list of areas of research comes from the Regulation of the same name from the time of Milošević’s rule and international isolation (in 1994) and it is far beyond the legitimate limitations of research compared to laws in other democratic countries.”

“Aside from violation of the law, of a great importance is that the implementation of this Regulation would make impossible, or at least substantially hindered, international scientific and research cooperation of universities, institutes, state institutions and associations of citizens from Serbia, who are financed from foreign funds,” it was expressed in the initiative.

It is also noted that this proposal is not in accordance with the principles of Chapter 25 – Science and Research, whose main goals are creation of the European Research Area in which researchers, scientific and technological knowledge are able to move freely, and participation of scientists from Serbia in international projects.

“Defining the priority areas for improving the security and defence of the country can be done only if there are high-quality, timely research guided by the principles of the profession, with the participation of the broadest spectrum of stakeholders from academia, civil society and the economy,” it said in the initiative.

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